One of the most commonly asked questions about headphones, earphones, or earbuds is, “What should I do if my earphones get wet?” There are many concerns associated with this question. The main concern is, Will the earphones get damaged? Another concern is how to dry the earphones. Then also, there is some concern on whether one could get electrocuted using wet earphones or when using earbuds while taking a shower.
What should I do if I get my headphones/earphones wet? If your headphones/earphones get wet, unplug them from the audio device immediately (if wired), un-pair them (if Bluetooth/wireless), and power them down (if powered for wireless, noise-cancelling, etc.) to avoid electrical damage. Proceed to air dry or dry with desiccant and use them only once dry.
Let’s discuss what to do if our headphones or earphones get wet in more detail and consider the other concerns related to this problem. Note that I may use the terms headphones, earphones, and earbuds interchangeably when discussing generalities for the sake of expediency.
What To Do If Your Headphones/Earphones Get Wet
The first thing you need to do if your headphones or earphones get wet is to take them out of the water immediately. This is important because further exposure to water increases the chances of moisture getting inside the circuitry.
If moisture gets inside the circuitry, there is a possibility for your earphones to get damaged. This can happen if you turn the headphones/earphones on or send audio signals to them while they’re wet. Impurities in the water may cause a short circuit inside your earphones. This could burn or break the circuit, damaging your earphones beyond repair.
The electrolytes in the water (or other liquid) conduct electricity. If the circuit of the headphones/earphones is submerged in water, electricity will flow in unintended ways, potentially short-circuiting the headphones/earphones and permanently damaging them.
By removing any electricity (power or audio signals) and allowing the liquid to evaporate from the circuitry, the headphones/earphones can be used properly once again.
So, it is of utmost importance that you remove the earphones immediately from the water or any other liquid.
Of course, there are different levels of “wetness” a pair of headphones can experience. There are also various ways to dry them. Let’s discuss 3 common scenarios:
- Earphones That Got Splashed And/Or Removed From Water Immediately
- Earphones That Got Washed Or Submerged
- Earphones That Got Submerged In Other Liquids
Earphones That Got Splashed And/Or Removed From Water Immediately
If you were to remove the earphones from the water immediately, the water probably only reached the outside parts.
First, remove the rubber or silicone sleeve covering the speaker and wipe it dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. Set it aside.
Shake the earphones slightly to shake off water droplets. The physical force of shaking dislodges water droplets from where they are sticking on the earphones. Then wipe the earphones with a soft cloth or paper towel, applying a little pressure on the speaker mesh to dry it out.
Do not hit or strike the earphones on any surface to shake off water, as this might cause shock waves inside the earpieces and damage the tiny speaker system inside. Slightly shake or jiggle the earpieces freely in the air.
Blow-dry air on the earphones using your mouth. This also helps remove other tiny water droplets that may be trapped inside.
Earphones That Got Washed Or Submerged
If your earphones got submerged in water for a longer period of time, it would take longer to dry. If, say, your earphones got washed together with your clothes or fell in a swimming pool, water may have entered inside the holes and creases.
The same procedure above will remove much of the water droplets outside the earpieces: Shake off the water droplets from the earphones. Then pat them dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. Finally, blow dry air on the holes and creases using your mouth.
However, it will require a longer time to dry to remove all the moisture left inside the earphones.
Earphones That Got Submerged In Other Liquids
If your earphones got submerged in dirty water or other liquids, it is recommended that before drying them out, immerse the earphones twice in distilled water.
Note that distilled water does not contain the electrolytes or “impurities” that could potentially short the circuit.
Shake or jiggle the earphones while underwater to clear out the dirty water (other liquids). Then shake off any excess water droplets attached to the earphones, pat them dry with a soft cloth, and blow dry air into the speaker mesh using your mouth or soft pressurized air.
After doing this, place the earphones on a soft cloth or paper towel. Put the earphones on a tabletop or countertop where it’s exposed to open air. An electric fan will help circulate dry air around the earphones.
Do not use a hairdryer because its high temperature might damage the insides of your earphones. Most importantly, do not microwave your earphones!
You can also place the earphones inside a resealable plastic bag or Ziploc together with any available desiccant (e.g. silicone gel, uncooked rice). The desiccant will draw away the residual moisture from inside the earphones.
How Long Does It Take For Earphones To Dry?
Earphones that were not submerged in deep water or for a long period of time dry easily. After shaking off the water droplets, wiping with a soft cloth, and blowing dry air on them, your earphones are just about ready to be used again. The brief exposure to water is not overly concerning.
But if your earphones get submerged in deep water for a significant period of time, it may take about 24 – 48 hours for them to dry out completely. Then, test the earphones if it works. If it doesn’t work, give it more time to dry, about 24 hours. If it still doesn’t work, either you need to replace it with a new pair, or you can bring it to the manufacturer’s service center for repair.
Do not operate your earphones until you’ve done the procedures for drying.
What Happens If You Operate Your Earphones While They Are Wet?
If you turn your earphones on while it is still wet, it can get damaged due to short circuit. Short circuits happen because the impurities in the water act as a conductor that electrifies every little metallic component it touches inside the earphones. They get electrocuted and zapped.
The circuitry inside your earphones is powered by wires, a coil, and a magnet. Your earphones are actually miniature speakers. They operate on the same principles as regular speakers. Only earphones are very tiny that they can fit in your ears.
This is why care is needed to keep your earphones dry. Because if water and moisture reach the electric circuits in your earphones while they are in operation, the electricity running through it gets short-circuited, and the tiny hair-strand wires can overheat and snap.
Can You Get Electrocuted If You Use Your Earphones While They Are Wet?
DISCLAIMER: NOTE THAT THIS SECTION IS ONLY TO HELP PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION. I AM NOT AN ELECTRICIAN. IF YOU ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH ELECTRICAL SHOCKS OF ANY KIND, PLEASE CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL ELECTRICIAN.
No. There is no way you would get electrocuted when you use wet earphones because earphones have very low current running through them. Most earphones are less than 5V and run on a very low current, 2mA – 35mA. This is too weak to get you electrocuted.
Although there has been news about people getting electrocuted while using their earphones, these are few, and the possibility of it happening is very remote. Most of the time, the news is about people using their earphones while the phone is charging, thereby being connected to the power mains, which are much more dangerous.
It’s been speculated that the electrocution might not have been simply the result of using the earphones while the phone was charging, but probably due to a power surge. So, if there are no exposed parts in your earphones that may conduct a strong surge of electricity, you can’t get electrocuted using your earphones even while they’re wet.
That all being said, do your own research on safety. I also do not recommend ever using headphones/earphones when wet due to what’s already been discussed, notably the potential of damaging the headphones.
Related article: Why Do I Get An Electrical Shock When I Touch My Microphone?
Are There Waterproof Earphones/Headphones?
Yes, there are waterproof earphones and headphones on the market. There can be either wired and wireless.
But it is important to understand that earphones are not really waterproof but rather water-resistant. The level of waterproofing that a pair of earphones are designed with, tells us how water-resistant they are. There are different levels of waterproofing based on IP (Ingress Protection) standards.
The number to look at if considering waterproof earphones is the last one on the code, IPxx.
The first “x” indicates the level of protection of its seals against dust or solid particles, while the second “x” indicates the waterproofing or how water-resistant it is. The higher the number, the better the waterproofing is.
Some earbuds are only rated IPx4. This means that these earbuds can only withstand little splashes of water, like rain or sweat. They are not recommended for use while swimming.
An IPx6 rating means that your earphones are protected against powerful water splashes or water jets. An IPx7 means your earphones can withstand water pressure up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. An IPx8 can get submerged more than 1 meter of water pressure for longer than 30 minutes. It all depends on the manufacturer’s specifications.
These are general guidelines on how water-resistant earphones or earbuds are for enthusiasts who listen to music while engaging in swimming or other water sports.
For more information on swimming headphones, check out my article Top 3 Best Earphones For Swimming Under $200.
Let’s consider 3 option for water-resistant headphones:
The Aukey EP-B60 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a pair of wireless earphones with an IPX6 rating, making them resistant to sweat and rain, though I wouldn’t take them swimming.
The Aukey EP-B60 earphones are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Wireless Earphones For Running Under $50.
The Jaybird Vista (link to check the price on Amazon) is a set of true wireless earbuds with an IPx7 rating. They’re sweatproof and nearly waterproof, making them an excellent choice for running, jogging and hiking outdoors.
The Jaybird Vista earbuds are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Wireless Earphones For Running Under $200.
The Aftershokz Xtrainerz (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) are bone conduction headphones with an IP68 rating. They’re practically waterproof and, due to their transducer principle, make a great pair of headphones for swimming.
AfterShokz’ Xtrainerz is a bone conduction headphone. Bone conduction headphones work by vibrating our bones rather than our eardrums to elicit a response from our inner ear that is interpreted as sound by our brains.
So these headphones/earphones don’t actually go over our ears. Rather, they press against our cheekbones. This allows our ears to listen to our external environment while we’re also hearing the audio we send to the Aeropex.
For more information on bone conduction headphones, check out my article The Complete Guide To Bone Conduction Headphones (With Examples).
Is There A Difference Between Headphones, Earphones, And Earbuds?
Let’s briefly discuss semantics here.
Yes, there are differences in their descriptions. However, there is some confusion regarding the terms. Some call earphones headphones, and others call earphones earbuds.
In general, we can differentiate them as follows:
Headphones don’t directly go inside your ears and are typically designed with two defined earcups connected by a headband. Headphones can sit on-ear (supra-aural) or over-ear (circumaural) but do not sit inside the ear canal.
Earphones and earbuds are generally interchangeable terms. Either can be wired, wireless or true wireless (where there’s no wire connecting the two earbuds/earphones).
What Should You Do If Your Headphones Get Wet?
If your headphones fall on the water, immediately take them out of the water. Shake off any water sticking to the headphones. Blow-dry air on the earpiece using your mouth and wipe the headphones with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Check the ear cups, ear cushions, and headband for any sign of wetness.
Air dry the headphones, ear cups, cushions, and headband in an open space.
If your headphones got soaked, and the ear cups and cushions got soaked as well, it might take longer to dry. Do not force dry the ear cups and cushioning by using a hairdryer or applying heat. You can leave the headphones in the open air to dry with the help of an electric fan.
Do not operate the headphones while drying.
How To Prevent Your Earphones/Earbuds From Getting Wet
To prevent your earphones from getting wet, you need to be careful where you place them or where you wear them.
One of the usual causes of earphones getting wet is when they get washed together with your clothes. This happens because it is easier to keep your earphones in your pocket than to keep them in a safe container after use. Make it a habit to put the earphones in a waterproof case every time they’re not in use.
Do not use your earphones when you go swimming, take a bath or a shower, or when you go to the spa (unless the IP rating is high enough to do so). Chances are, your earphones will either get wet from strong water splashes or acquire moisture in their circuits due to steam in the sauna. This can cause serious damage if you don’t dry your earphones afterwards.
Do not wash or attempt to wash your earphones to clean them. If you want to clean your earphones, wipe off sweat, dirt and stains using a soft cloth and a gentle solution. If you need to reach tight spots, use a cotton swab or a tiny brush to remove dirt and debris from tight corners. The silicone or rubber ear nozzles can be washed and dried. But do not wash or attempt to wash on running tap water.
Also, do not wear your earphones or earbuds when looking after your kids in a kiddie pool. Because chances are, with all the movement going on all around, your earbuds might loosen from your ear and fall into the water.
Lastly, place liquids an arm’s length away from where you are sitting or working on your laptop, to avoid your earphones accidentally dropping into the glass. It often happens that your arms accidentally hit the earphone wire dislodging the earphones from your ear,, and it falls on your drink. So to prevent this accident from happening, just keep any glass of liquid away.
These are practical tips on what to do when your headphones, earphones, or earbuds get wet. And how to prevent them from getting wet, so your headphones, earphones, or earbuds can give you longer listening pleasure.